I began this blog as a way to find out what I know. We all have a great number of thoughts that seem clear and well constructed, but only through trying to articulate them can we discover what we really know. Without expression thoughts exist in a warm soup, or more like a thick gumbo with numerous ingredients and they don’t necessarily add up to a tasty meal.
After writing for several productive months I hit a block that is sort of a writer’s block, but with a difference. I have no shortage of topics upon which I would like to comment, but I am unable to find a way to express them or I try them out and find that I don’t really know what I am talking about. For example, I recently read “Bad Boy” by Eric Fischl which is a very good book for painters to read because he gets into his development as an artist describing the process that emerged from his years of search. Fischl had, in spite of his many years at art school, zero training in technique and had to teach himself to paint the figure after he finally decided that that would be his subject. His whole journey was fraught with agonizing self-doubt worrying that he would be labeled a fraud. And a good part of his “guilt,” if you will, seemed to stem from his lack of basic skills.
I thought I saw in this an opening to write a spirited defense of technical training, such as I went though the Art Student’s League and the National Academy. Years of anatomy followed by years of painting the figure. I tried to argue that mastering basic drawing and painting techniques could have lessened his long periods of low confidence about his abilities and he could have concentrated more on his subject knowing that his painting was solid.
Maybe so, but who can say? What gave him his success is a whole cloth. I believe in learning a certain amount of technique and it would not hurt art schools to make it part of their core courses as it opens a basis for many kinds of investigation rather than closing it off.
Nevertheless, artists spring from all kinds of backgrounds and use all manner of strategies to try and get where they want to go. It is probably also true that none of us is ever totally secure in our work in its particulars or its general trajectory. If we pick something up we have to forgo something else and that is where doubt sets in.
I think that this exercise taught me concentrate on what I know and not try to speculate publicly about this or that. Some notions are better off left unexpressed in the gumbo.